EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – In the heart of downtown East Peoria lies what some consider to be the city’s oasis for shopping.

It is a business district cemented across from city hall, huddled with restaurants, retailers, and residents.

“The Levee District has been a great asset to East Peoria and not just East Peoria but the region as a whole,” John Kahl, mayor of East Peoria, said.

Kahl said the commercial area in existence today used to be a Caterpillar manufacturing site for the majority of the 1900s. In its place stands a vibrant vision years in the making that’s not only supported by East Peoria residents, but people throughout Central Illinois.

“There’s a lot of effort that went into making what we have today happen,” Kahl said. “East Peoria has a lot of hotels that we support as well, which we host a lot of events through EastSide Sports Complex and the city works very closely with the Chamber [of Commerce] and we host a lot of nonprofit events down in the Levee District to support that business community as well.”

He said the district is a site for business growth, community events, and endless opportunities.

“The Levee District continues to thrive, there’s new development coming down there,” Kahl said.

One of the area’s newest editions is Crumbl Cookies, a Utah-based franchise that set up shop in the district back during Memorial Day weekend.

Matt Hanzel, Crumbl Cookies’ owner and operator, said the area was a perfect fit.

“It really does mimic the feel that we’re trying to drive with the Crumbl brand and that’s a vibrant and energetic feel,” Hanzel said. “If you go in our store it’s a bright, clean, vibrant experience and I think that extends out to the Levee District.”

He said the community has welcomed them with open arms and the business’ placement created a recipe for a sweet success story.

“It’s a happening place. It’s up and coming, a lot of traffic through here,” Hanzel said.

City leaders said new businesses and an apartment complex with more than 230 units are also on the horizon for the district. But Kahl said there is one last desired element to bring the area full circle.

“Now we’re bringing in the residential component, the last component that I would love to see for downtown East Peoria is the entertainment component,” Kahl said. “The other members of the [city] council feel the same way, so looking long-term that would be the next part of what I would love to see happen down there.”